A Daily Collect for Lent.
[Read Psalm 51]
You alone bring order to the unruly wills and affections of sinners:
May we love what You command, and desire what You promise,
so that, among the swift and varied changes of this world,
our hearts may be fixed where true joy is to be found.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
– From Venite: A Book of Daily Prayer.
Lent is a season where we reflect on our own mortality. Our own sinfulness. Our own inability to live up to our calling to be image-bearers of the One True God. Lent is a season of repentance, of returning to the Lord.
Yet repentance is rather unfashionable in society today (and in the church no less). I wonder if this has not always been the case regarding repentance. For to truly repent is to acknowledge that because of our sinfulness our “wills and affections” are “unruly”. Oh how hard it is for us to admit this. To say that our “wills and affections” are unruly is to say that our “wills and affections”, our desire, is often misplaced. But rarely do we stop to meditate on our desire. Rather, we generally assume that whatever desire we may have, whatever our “wills and affections” may be, these are good and healthy and normative. This, however, is not the case. As sinners who have abandoned our Creator, who alone is the true end (telos) of our “wills and affections”, our “wills and affections” have become undone. They are unruly. It can no longer be assumed that our desires are necessarily good and healthy and normative.
The beginning of repentance is to acknowledge this, and further, to acknowledge that “[Christ] alone” can bring order to our “wills and affections”. We must therefore submit all of our desires, all of our wills and affections, to Christ Jesus alone. We must place everything about us, all of the distinguishing features (both good and bad) that we might use to identify ourselves , under the authority of Christ Jesus. To find ourselves we must first lose ourselves in Christ. We must claim nothing for ourselves. This is the way of repentance. There is no other way.
It is only then that human creatures can have any hope of “loving what God has commanded, and desiring what He has promised”. So then, as the world runs to and fro seeking out true joy but never quite finding it, the hearts of those whose lives are marked by repentance “may be fixed where true joy is to be found”. Namely, in the presence of Jesus the Christ and His community the Church.
To the glory of the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.